Providing a major impetus to India’s defence ties with Sri Lanka, Army chief General Bikram Singh on Saturday ended his four-day visit to the island nation when he visited the areas formerly held by Tamil rebels and met with ex-combatants.
His visit this week came despite vehement protests from regional political parties from Tamil Nadu, including the ruling AIADMK that are opposed to defence cooperation with Sri Lanka over issues concerning rehabilitation of the embattled Tamils during the three-decade-long internal war.
Singh had left for Colombo Wednesday for the visit, which assumed special significance in the light of ongoing defence cooperation between the two countries.
During the visit, the chief interacted with various high-level political and military dignitaries, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Chief of Defence Staff Air Marshal W D R M J Goonatileke.
In addition, he visited the Security Forces Headquarters at Wanni and Sri Lanka Military Academy at Diyatalawa, where he reviewed the passing out parade.
The chief also paid homage at the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) memorial constructed in memory of the 1,166 Indian soldiers, who were killed in the fight against the now-decimated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“The visit has enhanced military-to-military contacts that are mutually beneficial to the strategic interests of both the nations, added impetus to the ongoing defence cooperation, and further strengthened the bilateral relationship,” an officer in the Indian Army headquarters here said. In his meeting with Rajapaksa, Singh assured India’s full commitment to Lanka’s security.
At the conflict-affected Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka, Singh visited the Security Forces headquarters in Wanni and met with Commander Major General Boniface Perera, when he was briefed on the post-war rebuilding of infrastructure, reconciliation, resettlement, rehabilitation, and humanitarian assistance. Perara explained the issues faced by the war-hit civilians of the northern areas of Sri Lanka.